Ten Steps To Empowerment
Empowering people can take many forms. In most organizations, there are many actions that can be taken, without financial risk to the organization, to start empowering people. From the biggest for profit corporation to the smallest non - profit, there are empowering behaviors that can add tremendous amounts of energy and leverage. Here are ten behavior driven actions to take to empower people.
Jack and Suzy Welch answer a question relating to empowerment in their back page column in the Business Week August 25, 2008 issue. That particular definition deals with empowering leaders and emerging leaders in companies to take risk as a means of accomplishment- using Google as a model.
Empowering people can take many forms. In most organizations, there are many actions that can be taken, without financial risk to the organization, to start empowering people.
From the biggest for - profit corporation to the smallest non - profit, there are empowering behaviors that can add tremendous amounts of energy and leverage.
Here are ten behavior driven actions to take to empower people.
1 - Create the opportunity for trust. Trust comes from results. Results come from a combination of opportunities and actions. That climate can be established at every level. The quicker trustworthy people are identified, the better. Same goes for the untrustworthy.
2 - Provide recognition for contribution. Many managers rationalize not doing this by saying the person was just doing their job. Question: Since when is delivering a product, error free, on time and to a customer spec just " doing their job?" Or giving up a weekend and a family picnic to recover a schedule? Or working double shifts to correct an error on a time sensitive assembly for a customer? Or flying to a jobsite in a foreign country with 4 hours notice to deal with an angry customer? Recognition for a job well done is empowering at every level.
3 - Minimize the rules. Structure is important, no doubt about it. But in most organizations, the rules are either not clear, ignored or out of date. Procedures provide guidance - and discretion - and they empower people by providing a pathway to accomplishment. Why waste time and opportunity constantly reinventing the how - do - we - do - this wheel?
4 - Develop meaningful goals and involve the people who can contribute to the process. This can be messy - it's so much easier to just write down what is to be done. But involvement empowers people, and provides so much valuable input to setting goals. And in most cases, the goals will be more aggressive than if the boss had just written them down. Empowered people work harder and smarter.
5 - Recognize results. This is different than recognizing contribution, but just as valuable. When a goal is met, empower the people involved to go out and do more by recognizing the goal accomplishment.
6 - Develop boundaries for action that allow for some risk. Risk averse organizations don't like to hear that "some level of risk" talk, and for good reason. No one wants to be bagged and tagged by a rogue bond trader, an unethical lawyer, an dishonest accountant, an overly aggressive sales person. But creating boundaries based on the worst possible scenario so limits individual initiative that empowerment can't survive, let alone flourish.
7 - Use opportunity as a reward for accomplishment. This should be done anyway, but it's amazing how many organizations and people don't view opportunity as a reward, but as a jeopardy. Pessimists have their place in every organization - they provide valuable control points and healthy skepticism. But the future belongs to the optimists - the seekers of opportunity.
8 - Ask people what they think. And then listen to their responses. I've written before about the most feared words in business - " What do you think?" To the command and control managers, those words sound like they're giving up their God given right to lead. The truth is those words empower their opportunity to lead. And they empower their people. If the managers can't see that, it's time for a change.
9 - Don't let the bums wear you down. How often have people's sharp edges been described as " just needing a little rounding off'"? But too much rounding off results in a blunt instrument. Every manager and leader has had multiple experiences within their" universe" of people that has the potential to reduce their own effectiveness - to make them a blunt instrument. Poor managers, bad or non existent role models and mentors, dishonest and double dealing peers, bad situations - all have the potential to wear a person down. That's why having positive and optimistic ideals and expectations are so important and empowering. They guard against letting the inevitable negative incidents become the driver of behavior.
10 - Seek out and encourage differences. There is no learning without conflict. Empowerment comes from differing points of view - and respect for those points of view. It's often tempting to brush off the dissenting opinion or observation or suggestion, but providing the opportunity for inclusion of differences results in more empowerment - and more effective decision making.
Inventory your own behavior against these ten steps. Then act to implement the steps that make sense for your situation and the situation of the people around you. Increased empowerment will be the product of those actions.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andy Cox helps his clients select and develop teams and talent. He focuses on helping leaders and emerging leaders define and develop their skills and talents using goals. He can be reached at http://www.coxconsultgroup.com , or at firstname.lastname@example.org